How to Tell If a Tree Is Dead or Alive

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Dead or dying trees present a health risk to your family and property. Dead trees can fall over in storms or high winds and do a great deal of damage to a house or car. If you notice any signs that your tree may be dying or diseased, checking to see whether your tree is dead or alive will protect your property and enable you to have the tree removed before it does damage.

You can do several easy things to test whether a tree has died.

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Watch the tree in the spring for leaves, buds and growth. If the tree shows no signs of life in the spring, it may be dead.

Check the tree in fall for signs of disease. If leaves begin losing their green or falling from the tree before autumn, your tree may be dead or dying.

Examine the tree closely for leaf buds. If none exist, continue examining the tree.

Break off a small branch. If the twig breaks off easily and is brown inside without any signs of soft or green wood, your tree may be dead.

Scrape off a portion of bark with a knife or chisel. Look for green, soft wood just under the bark. If none is there, your tree may be dead.

Examine the larger branches of the tree. If they are brittle, break off or begin to fall, your tree may be dead.

Examine your tree for any signs of illness, such as mold growth, dead branches or diseased leaves, if any exist.

Tips & Warnings

  • Consult an arborist about your tree. Arborists will be able to examine the tree fully and determine whether it is truly dead.
  • If the tree is dead, have it removed from your yard.


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